What You Need to Buy and Grow an Online Bookkeeping Business
Congratulations! You’ve decided to quit your boring nine-to-five job and buy an online bookkeeping business. You’ve agreed on a price with the vendor, decorated your home office and you’re ready to go. Before you can start earning money however, there are a few things you need to know.
Buying an Online Business—What To Expect
The major goal in buying an online business is to generate money no matter where you are located. You need to be able to set yourself up to work remotely and to deliver a service that is responsive, professional and within your operating budget.
Most bookkeeping businesses for sale are not ‘turn-key’ operations. It’s not simply a matter of taking the driver’s seat and starting the business with everything you need already in place. You are buying the foundations of the business from which to grow your own reputation and client-base.
Upfront Online Business Assets
The initial outlay for your online business includes valuable assets which get you earning money quickly. These digital assets can save you time, help with your systems and education to guarantee you earn a basic income from the start, rather than having to build up your business from scratch.
These digital assets may include the following:
Customer and Prospect Lists
Contact names, email addresses and phone numbers are a valuable asset in the purchase of an online business. These may include existing customers, prospects, referral sources or industry partners and they are essentially your bread and butter.
A mailing list of prospects is a valuable digital asset because they can be converted into paying customers.
With a mailing list of prospects you can share blog posts, tips and advice, or special offers to keep your brand front of mind while you also try to convert some of them to customers (when they are ready to buy). Emails are easily shareable so if you publish useful content, your subscribers can share it with their friends and you can attract new subscribers.
Remember though—although a client list may guarantee you a level of income when you first take over the business, it is not assumed for the long-term. Clients need to be nurtured so that they continue to see value, especially when the business has changed hands and trust needs to be rebuilt.
Many corporate workers understand the value of a sales pipeline to generate future revenue and although you can passively send them email and text messages it is very useful to make contact via phone as well.
In your calling you might realise that 30% of the prospects will never be an ideal client but you might also connect with 20% who just needed to speak with someone from the company to decide to start using your services.
Website & Copyright Content
A website which is easy to navigate and provides useful information is an essential tool for building trust with your brand and capturing sales leads.
With the right landing pages and a webchat service providing answers to common questions, it can be working for you even when you are busy doing something else.
A business website may have been created internally by the business owner or a staff member or outsourced to a website developer. If the owner has been smart with their website it should act as the beginning stages of the sales funnel (pipeline) and have good offers or a “Call to Action” that encourages potential customers to provide their contact details to engage with the business.
Building your website with WordPress will save you money and give you the flexibility to make changes and add content as you wish. As the owner of an online business you will probably want to make some changes as you manage the business.
There will also be website and email hosting costs incurred which are billed by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
If the business has a website, the assets will include domain names. These may not be limited to published websites, but may also include similar names that you want to prevent others from using and being mistaken for your business.
For example, if your business name is ‘Superior Bookkeeping Services’ you may decide to purchase the domain names for:
Domain names usually need to be renewed every two years, so it’s important that you keep them paid and up to date. The last thing you want is for someone else to purchase the domain name for your website!
Logos and Images
Business logos may be trademarked to prevent their use by other parties. Although not strictly essential for a sole-trader bookkeeping business, it is an expensive undertaking and the cost may be reflected in the asking price for the business.
Your logo needs to be unique and instantly recognisable so that your brand becomes familiar with potential customers. It also represents your culture, ethics and reputation in the marketplace, so ensure that your logo is professional and suitable for a bookkeeping business. Font choice, brand colours and your logo all need to be considered carefully in order to make a positive first impression.
Improving your Google search ranking is essential to helping new clients find you—however it takes time and the work involved in “Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)” is ongoing. Anyone who tells you that an online business give you passive income is not getting the full potential from their digital asset.
Search Engine Optimisation involves posting fresh content containing relevant keywords by way of blogs, social media, information guides, blueprints, free samples etc. Online businesses that don’t rank well in Google’s organic search results often spend a lot of money on online ads.
The higher the organic ranking, the more valuable your online business asset is.
An online business with a strong sales track record demonstrates a successful conversion from prospects to customers. It should give a buyer increased confidence that the online business has proven systems and a good offering of products and services that encourage prospects to buy – that increases the value of the online business.
Any evidence of past sales can be used to demonstrate projected future income and be used as a basis for accurate forecasting. Historical sales represent an opportunity to increase revenue by selling more to those customers or learning more about the business and why they chose to buy from the business.
They can also be a fantastic source of testimonials and referrals.
In addition to your upfront costs to buy digital assets and goodwill there are operating expenses that you need to consider:
Home Office Expenses
There’s more to working from home than simply purchasing a desk and a laptop and some of your current costs can now be claimed as an expense of your business. This means that you can now reduce your taxable income (and pay less tax) but you should always consult with a BAS Agent or Accountant. Office expenses include:
- Fuel and vehicle maintenance
- Web and email hosting
- Software subscriptions
- Post office box rental
It is a good ideal to separate these expenses from your personal expenses in a separate business bank account. Using accounting software like Xero, MYOB or QuickBooks also makes this much easier when it comes to accounting for your business.
Marketing and Advertising
A marketing and advertising budget is essential for attracting new clients and maintaining your sales pipeline. Ongoing costs may include:
- Online classifieds advertising
- Social media advertising
- Google Ads
- Email marketing
- Printed materials such as brochures and business cards
- Vehicle branding
- Giveaway Promotional items such as branded fridge magnets, pens or complimentary training manuals
One of the best things you can invest in is understand how a website makes money and how to use Digital Marketing to attract potential customers and convert them into paying clients.
Time and Commitment
Finding new clients takes time, energy and creativity. You will need to commit at least 3 hours a day to work on your business if you are serious about making it successful.
When you purchase an established online business you are paying for the goodwill, reputation and customer base that have been generated by the previous owner. For this reason, you will need to invest time in retaining them and keeping them happy—especially in the initial stages of the handover while they are getting to know you.
Although working remotely allows you a more flexible lifestyle, you also need to be more flexible. That could mean having to respond to emails early in the morning, or adjusting your schedule to accommodate urgent client requests.
Buying an Online Business in a Box
Buying an established online business is always going to be more expensive than starting a business from scratch. Starting from scratch means you won’t have any customers or prospect lists or a website or any organic ranking in Google’s search engine.
But if you can’t afford an established business you can still get up to speed quickly if your online business is based on a template that has been successful for other business owners.
If you are a good writer, for example, and want to learn how to promote yourself online and master WordPress skills as well as digital marketing then this Online Business Startup Package is ideal for you.
Give Your Business the Best Start for Success
When you start a new online business, either from scratch or when purchasing an existing business, there will be a steep learning curve and an element of risk. You need to be able to work hard, be resilient and take rejection on the chin. The first year or two is the hardest, mainly because you want to learn how to be a business owner and be proactive, rather than waiting to be told what to do.
Thankfully you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Other bookkeepers have faced the same challenges before you and they can support you by sharing their experiences and teaching you how to avoid common pitfalls.
Training, mentoring and coaching will help you to remain positive and focused, and provide an understanding person to talk to when you just need to offload.
Our Gold Membership Bookkeeping Business Package offers you access to quality online training courses, friendly and responsive support from our team and the opportunity to be put in touch with a bookkeeping professional through our Industry Connect service.
You’ll also get business startup assistance, and marketing support to help you with your initial marketing strategy and execution. We’ll even help you learn the skills to operate your business remotely, and provide opportunities for you to earn income by tutoring accounting course students.
After the Introduction Call—What a Bookkeeping Licensee Needs to Send to Local Accountants
After making your initial phone call to a local accountant, BAS agent or tradesperson the next step is to follow up with an email about your bookkeeping services. Offering a value-add such as a training manual or a free service shows that you are confident in your abilities and able to demonstrate your competence.
Want More Bookkeeping Clients? Work for FREE If You Have To
How much you charge for your services will depend on your confidence in your knowledge and experience, as well as your people and conversation skills. If you have been a small business bookkeeper or BAS Agent for five years, you will speak differently than someone who is just starting out. So—how do you get that knowledge and experience? By offering some of your services for free.